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The Truth About Iraq


Mark Tooley - published on 07/02/14 - updated on 06/07/17

Neither could the sanctions regime against Saddam, intended to prevent his serious rearmament, have much longer lasted. Critics claimed the U.S.-backed UN sanctions were responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis through malnutrition and illness that imports could have prevented. Their professed concerns largely disappeared after the U.S. led invasion, when they mostly pivoted to oppose the war, usually ignoring the discovered evidence of Saddam’s predictably shameless exploitation of sanctions to enrich himself while starving his people.

Arguably, knowing subsequent events, a permanent U.S. led military containment of Saddam, if in fact sustainable, might have been preferable to war, similar to the now over 60 year containment of North Korea by U.S. troops in South Korea. But such a long term commitment contained its own considerable military and political risks. And in the moral equation, there was Saddam’s ongoing mass murder, torture, rape, and robbery of his own people. The post-9/11 atmosphere offered a rare political opportunity to remove him.

Critics of the "stupid" overthrow of Saddam, especially if speaking from a faith perspective, would be more serious if they at least admitted that all the policy alternatives were extremely dangerous and nasty, entailing death and suffering on a large scale. Such is our fallen, sin-filled world, always so full of demons aiming to destroy. 

A recent Washington Post poll of veterans found only 44 percent thought the Iraq War was worth fighting, but 90 percent would volunteer to serve again. This combination of ambivalence and defiance, similar to the defiant crippled veteran portrayed in Best Years of Our Lives, perhaps better captures the ambiguity of all wars compared to sanctimonious condemnation from some religious critics.

Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church and Methodism And Politics in the Twentieth Century.

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